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"Stars of the Bolshoi"

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I have tix for tonight's Montgomery College/Rockville, MD performance of a group called "Stars of the Bolshoi." I can't seem to find anything about this company on the web except for the announcement of tonight's performance:


When googling "'Stars of the Bolshoi' 2011 tour" only today's Mongomery College date appears. I'm wondering if anybody has seen this particular tour? Is this the smallish pick-up company directed by Shamil Yagudin, which used to tour with Grigorovich-era stars in the 1990s/early '00s?

I know that CAMI (Columbia Artists Mgmt, Inc.) is presenting the larger Russian National Ballet Company on the US college series circuit this spring. This is different, I think. Edited on 3/10 to add: No! They are the same...a Radchenko enterprise. Any and all insights appreciated.

These 'pick-up' groups can often yield unexpected delights, so I'm going with an open mind.

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"Stars of the Bolshoi" (should honestly be titled "Two Bolshoi Corps Members and Friends")

March 9, 2011

Robert E. Parilla Center for the Arts - Montgomery Country Comm. College

Rockville, MD

Mystery solved! This is indeed a 'gala excerpts' spin-off (about 20 dancers) of Yelena Radchenko's Russian National Ballet Troupe (40 dancers) which, in turn, is a spin-off of her husband, Sergei Radchenko's, Moscow Festival Ballet (60 dancers). How do I know? Not by the paltry playbill which gave few details about this group and didn't even mention Radchenko or CAMI, their tour managers...but because a VERY loud-clapping Russian lady sat next to us, near the back of the theater. She was, in essence, acting as a clacque, getting the applause started to cue the rest of the audience. When I asked, "Why are you applauding so loudly (almost busting my eardrums)?", she answered, "I am Yelena Radchenko, director of company."

So this was a small version of the larger Russian National Ballet that is touring bigger U.S. university campuses, including, in mid-April, the DC-area's George Mason University.

So who exactly are these so-called "Stars of the Bolshoi Ballet"? A bit of a misnomer...if not downright False Advertisement. There were two (count 'em, two) Bolshoi artists on the stage last night, as per the real Bolshoi's website, and they were, by far, the very finest dancers on the stage:

Maria Mishina, a 20-yr-old Bolshoi corps member http://www.bolshoi.ru/en/theatre/ballet_troupe/cdballet/


Alexander Smolianikov, about 27/28, a very strong corps member.

Mishina/Smolianikov's Le Corsaire pdd -- marked in the playbill as danced by two other Bolshoi "stars" who did not show up, Joo Yun Bae and Andrei Bolotin -- was the undisputed highlight, although she was a bit lackadaisical in her finishes, seemingly tired or didn't care. He, on the other hand, gave 101% of himself, garnering the loudest bravos of the night, by a mile. One would think that Ms Radchenko would have taken the microphone to let everybody in the audience know just who were the dancers of this pas de deux, which garnered the loudest accolades of the night? So we were made to believe that this European lady was "Joo Yun Bae" of Korea? Uh, OK...if they say so. :)

Mishina/Smolianikov were also listed in the programme as performing the Diana & Acteon pas de deux from Esmeralda...but, instead, we got only the solos, first his (fantastic!), then hers (heavily cheated, single pirouetttes when normally doubles occur...steps normally performed on pointe done on demi or flat feet). Maybe she thought that the audience doesn't know the difference? Uh, not in the DC area, missy.

It went way downhill from there, alas. Some of the corps ladies reminded me of the Trocks...except that these were female, I believe.

While a backstage announcer told us that a modern work listed in the first half of the program would be replaced by Black Swan pdd (prompting applause from the audience), nobody announced that the Sylphide PDD in the 2nd half would be dropped, with nothing replacing it. No announcements were made about the non-appearance of two out of four originally-announced Bolshoi dancers, or of the switches.

The unexpected comical highlight was the tall and lanky gent who 'starred' in the final work of the night, Nutcracker Valse and Pas de Deux. He may have landed all of his jumps like a truck driver and not finished his pirouettes...but he sure was enjoying himself, with the "Ahhhh! Smile" and "Tah-Dah! Pose" down pat. My husband & I almost had heart attacks trying to stifle our laughter so that Mme Radchenko would not hit us, as she sat next to my husband throughout the night.

I believe that this is the same group that our Chiapuris reviewed in January 2010 from Detroit, as many of the names and excerpts -- such as 'Ocean and Pearls Pas de Trois' from Humpbacked Horse -- are the same. He was far more diplomatic than I could ever be. :)

Folks really need to know what a 'sham game' this is. The write-up in the programme included, as I said, no mention of presenters (CAMI) or producers (Radchenko) but included very false bios of the Bolshoi corps members, stating that each was a Principal with the Bolshoi! [No bios for the other soloists of the night, all of whom appear to be regulars of the various Radchenko companies, since their names pop-up regularly in reviews of Moscow Festival Ballet or Russian National Ballet, when Googled.] For $40 a ticket, this is not cheap, when one considers that for $29 I can get a 2nd Tier-sides ticket to ABT at the Kennedy Center. The few moments of delight from the 2 Bolshoi dancers and the unexpected chuckles didn't quite amount to $40 worth of entertainment, IMO. So "Buyer Beware"! 'Stars of the Bolshoi' groups in the 90s (Shamil Yagudin's tours, for example) were much better than this lazy enterprise.

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Hmm...here in the UK we have something called the Trades Description Act and disgruntled punters (such as yourself) could complain that 'Bolshoi principal' is a false trade description and therefore you could expect to be reimbursed for having laid out good money because you had been misled by the phoney advertising.

The 'Stars of the Bolshoi' group that toured Britain in the 1990's was actually led by Natalia Bessmertnova, her sister Tatiana and brother in law Mikhail Gabovich. The rest of the dancers were much younger and went on to do great things, off the top of my head and without referring to old programmes I clearly remember Inna Petrova and Elena Adrienko, so the standard was pretty high and with Bessmertnova leading the company no one could quibble over the term 'Stars'.

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Thanks, Mashinka. The group with the Bessmertnovas also toured the USA 2-3 times in the mid- to late-1990s. I believe that the manager was Shamil Yagudin, former Bolshoi character principal (the 'pan' in the famous video of Walpurgisnacht Ballet). The Vetrov brothers (Yuri and Alexander, both former Grigorovich accolytes) were also involved. That was a true Bolshoi-related tour. Not the idiocy that we saw last night in Rockville, MD.

There must be a similar consumer-protection group in the USA. Several people in the audience (the group that came with us) were disappointed and would ask for their money back, if there's a way. I'll explore. Thank you.

p.s. Something interesting: CAMI's (Columbia Artists Management, Inc.) website does not list "Stars of the Bolshoi" as one of the artists that it represents, although they definitely represent two of the other Radchenko enterprises (Moscow Festival Ballet and Russian National Ballet Theater). http://www.cami.com/?topic=er#nam_S So perhaps the omission of the Radchenko and CAMI names from the programme/playbill was not accidental? This could be a 'private' side enterprise of some sort.

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Actually Yuri and Alexander Vetrov were not brothers, but I think they were related, maybe cousins though in Russia I believe it is common to refer to a cousin as a brother. Alexander has two half brothers currently dancing in the Bolshoi, Yegor and Roman Simachev. It is quite a dancing family as Alexander's father, Nikolai Simachev, had two brothers that also danced Alexander and Anatoly (the latter I remember as Espada back in the '70's). Presumably Alexander Vetrov took his mother's surname to avoid confusion.

Unfortunately Vetrov was not on the UK tours, though I seem to remember Yuri Vasyuchenko and Maria Bylova. Anyway, regardless of personnel they were a terrific troupe and I saw them several times in London and even followed the tour to places like Canterbury and Oxford.

From your description of the evening you are due a refund - go for it!

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Now we're going a little off-topic, Mashinka, but this is fun.

re. Vetrovs - thanks for the 'family ties' explanation. I still have a clipped 1995 English-language (international edition of the NYTimes/Int'l Herald-Tribune) article that was published soon after the ouster of Grigorovich. It recounts many alleged intrigues of several of the company members who became personae non grata in the new Vasiliev regime, including the "Vetrov Brothers" although, as you write, the author may have simply been quoting a Russian source who thought of them as brothers in the traditional sense. Yuri, I believe, was the Bolshoi Company Manager in the late-Grigorovich Era, the leading character-role male, and YG's right-hand-person for casting decisions, and ruled in an allegedly very tough manner. Irrespective of politics, I admired Alexander's classical dancing and Yuri's finely-nuanced, often hilarious Carabosse (which we all can see in the ca-1990 video of Beauty starring Nina Semizorova as Aurora). I was lucky enough to see Yuri's Carabosse 'live' years later, in one of the late-1990s Stars of the Bolshoi Tour, also in Rockville, MD...same theater that presented last night's very different "Stars" tour. Maria Bylova was the Aurora, still lovely even though well into her 40s by then.

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The Bessmertnova "Stars of the Bolshoi" also made its way to Chicago at the Civic Opera House on North Wacker Drive circa 1988-89. Bessmertnova did a "Giselle" Act II with Yuri Vasyuchenko who also did the "Spartacus" pas de deux. I don't remember Bylova being on that tour. I do remember a rather acrobatic ballerina who danced the Rose Adagio from "Sleeping Beauty". She was holding the balance with her arms en couronne, pretty in pink tutu and one of her princes was late. She barked some orders to him in Russian in a deep baritone voice totally at odds with her princess-like appearance. :P

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....I do remember a rather acrobatic ballerina who danced the Rose Adagio from "Sleeping Beauty". She was holding the balance with her arms en couronne, pretty in pink tutu and one of her princes was late. She barked some orders to him in Russian in a deep baritone voice totally at odds with her princess-like appearance. :P

It may have been Galina Stepanenko, who danced Rose Adagio in at least some stops of that tour. Bylova was in the mid-90s (95 or 96) tour -- which was essentially a tour of 'Grigorovichites' no longer in favor back home -- but not on the 89/90 edition.

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